Is There Coverage for COVID-19 Claims Under a General Liability Policy? 

General Liability During a PandemicThere is no question that both large and small businesses have been negatively affected by COVID-19. As an insurance professional, you may have already experienced a tsunami of questions from business clients as to how their commercial general liability (GL) is going to help mitigate losses associated with the pandemic.

Today, with many states allowing businesses to begin to slowly open their doors to the public, business owners may wonder what coverage they have under their GL policy should a patron allege that he or she has contracted COVID-19 while at their establishment. The fact is, there are a number of ways a claimant could have been exposed to the coronavirus; therefore, the burden of proof is on the claimant to establish that the business was specifically liable for his or her contracting COVID-19.

Another consideration is whether allegations of people who contracted the virus are considered an occurrence or an accident. In a GL contract, a policy pays for harm for a covered loss caused by an occurrence that is typically defined as an accident – this includes the repeated exposure to harmful conditions. In most normal situations, this most likely wouldn’t be an issue; however, the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be anything but normal. As a result, whether a business’s liability due to an alleged failure to safeguard patrons from being exposed to COVID-19 was caused by an accident will depend on whether the business owner anticipated the possibility of the claimant’s injury. This can be a gray area, as it could be argued that the business knew there might be a chance that a consumer could be exposed to COVID-19 and therefore, there is no occurrence/accident. *

We are living in unprecedented times and are having to navigate myriad new challenges due to the pandemic. Decisions about how coverage will respond to claims relating to COVID-19 will be made by each insurer and based on the facts of claim, individual policy and applicable laws. As an insurance professional, you play a vital role in helping your clients better understand specific facts about their coverages and ensuring that they have the protection they need.

About FastrackCE

Ensuring continuity in business in the midst of a crisis situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic is vital. At FastrackCE, we make it easy for insurance professionals like you to maintain current continuing education licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your clients. When you need us, we can help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

*Whether a claim is covered or denied is based on the facts involved in each particular claim and will play a large role in determining whether a particular COVID-19 illness was caused by an occurrence. Policies and claim situations will differ.

Disclaimer: Every insurance contract must be reviewed to determine the extent, if any, of coverage for COVID-19. Coverage will vary depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances. The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal and/or other professional advisors.

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Business Interruption and Loss of Use Amid COVID-19: Do Your Clients Have a Covered Loss?

Use of Loss - COVID-19The COVID-19 pandemic is putting businesses through some challenging paces. With mandates requiring the majority of businesses to shut their doors for an unknown period of time, your clients will be looking to their insurance policy to help fund their financial recovery. But COVID-19 is an animal unlike anything the insurance industry has ever experienced. This is raising a number of questions you and your clients may have regarding business interruption and loss of use provisions common to commercial property insurance. Here’s what you need to know.

Breakdown of a business interruption loss

Most commercial business property insurance policies typically include coverage for business interruption losses — including loss of revenue.[i] A basic breakdown of a business interruption claim is net income + continuing expenses + extra expense = business interruption loss claim. A covered claim typically includes a number of expenses related to the interruption of business, such as payroll, taxes and utilities, to name a few.

Are business interruption and loss of use damages related to COVID-19 a covered loss? 

Business interruption insurance covers a loss of income suffered by the insured due to damage to property that is covered under the policy when a covered peril causes a business to suspend its operations. Generally, coverage will be provided if the cause of the property damage is considered a “covered cause of loss,” such as a fire or windstorm, with most policies specifically excluding losses resulting from viruses or bacteria. Therefore, the fundamental question with respect to property insurance coverage for a COVID-19-related loss is whether the presence of the virus can cause or establish property damage. The answer? It depends.

In general, a covered claim for business interruption and loss of use requires some form of physical loss or damage to trigger coverage. However, in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, coverage may not necessarily require a physical alteration of property if a contingent business interruption insurance policy exists.   As such, loss of use and functionality of the business property could trigger coverage, provided there are no applicable exclusions in the contract. In fact, some state jurisdictions that have held firm that contamination and other incidents that render a business property uninhabitable or otherwise unfit for intended use constitute property damage within the definition of a commercial property insurance policy as a direct physical loss. In addition, policies that are written to include “loss of use” of property that has become uninhabitable or unusable may also extend to COVID-19-related shutdowns.

So what does this mean?

That every claim situation is different, and coverage for business interruption and loss of use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will be based on specific policy language and the facts and circumstances of a loss. Policyholders should always refer to the specific language of their insurance contract when determining if they have coverage for a loss.


 

[i] Policies that don’t include business interruption and loss of use coverage often provide an option to purchase coverage as part of a commercial package policy. Coverage typically is not offered as a standalone policy.

 

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COVID-19: 3 Ways Insurance Agents Can Demonstrate Their Value in a Crisis

Pandemic CrisisIn a crisis situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic, insurance professionals have an opportunity to shine and demonstrate to their clients that they are more than just a fair-weather agent. The following are three ways you can be there for your policyholders during this challenging time.

Be a communicator. It’s difficult to predict just how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. In the meantime, it’s critical to have a plan to communicate with your customers. Not only does this help them feel safe, but it instills trust by reassuring them that you are on top of things. Communication platforms include your website, email and social media, and each one can address issues that include:

  • Safety measures you are taking to protect your staff and policyholders.
  • Revised agency hours of operation or closures.
  • Claims contact information.
  • A designated COVID-19 page on your website with daily updates, information and resources for all lines of business.

Be of service. You can’t provide coverage on a claim in progress. However, you can reach out to policyholders during this time to help them assess their losses and discuss how they can move forward to better mitigate future risks associated with a crisis. This can include:

  • Talking to business-owner clients about how COVID-19 has specifically impacted their operations.
  • Reviewing commercial policies for potential gaps in coverage.
  • Emphasizing the importance of having business interruption or trade disruption insurance.
  • Creating a business continuity plan.

Be available. This is a time when insurance agents become the “port in the storm” for their policyholders and to serve as a reminder that with everything going on, you are here to help. This can include:

  • Ensuring that all calls that come into your agency are answered and voicemail messages are returned in a timely manner. If you have staff working remotely, have a system that can forward calls to your mobile phone or answering service.
  • Preparing your staff with a contact list of critical numbers that they can provide to policyholders who may need to get in contact with a carrier, adjuster or other necessary resources.
  • Setting appointments with policyholders who may need to meet with you in person and assuring them that you are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention best practices as an essential business.

Policyholders who are happy with their insurance agent are 80% more likely to remain loyal and renew their current policies than are those who are unsatisfied with their agent. In critical times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important for you to demonstrate your value as a trusted insurance professional.

Ensuring continuity in business is a vital part of navigating through a crisis situation. At FastrackCE, we make it easy for insurance professionals like you to maintain current CE licensing requirements so you can continue to serve your clients. When you need us, we can help. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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Did You Just Hire the Wrong Person for Your Insurance Agency? 3 Things You Don’t Want in a CSR

Did you know that your customer service representative (CSR) is directly tied to the profitability of your insurance agency? Hiring TipsThe fact is, a good CSR is a vital member of your team when it comes to nurturing new business opportunities and retaining existing policyholders. But hiring the wrong CSR can adversely affect an agency’s profits and good reputation. Here’s what you don’t want in a CSR and what to watch for when determining the right person for the job.

Someone who isn’t a people person. CSRs come in contact with a wide range of people, personalities and situations over the phone, in person and on the computer. Because of their personal contact with clients and prospects, CSRs must enjoy helping people and have experience working with a variety of personalities — a critical component to the retention of accounts.

CSR hiring tip: Being a people person isn’t a skill but a trait, which is why it can be difficult to observe in a person during an interview. What you want in a good people person is someone who looks and listens for subtle clues about a customer’s current mood, patience level and personality to help keep interactions positive.

When determining candidates for the job, you should consider passing over a person who is unable to respond positively to questions — for example, telling a walk-in customer that the agent isn’t available.

Not-so-positive language: “The agent is out of the office and can’t see you today.”

Positive language: “I’m sorry, but the agent is out of the office this afternoon on appointments. May I take a message or make an appointment for you? What’s a good day/time?”

Someone who isn’t a problem solver. A CSR often deals with difficult people, which is why a good candidate should be someone who is creative, flexible and helpful when solving problems. For example, if a CSR can’t answer a billing question for a policyholder or assist with the status of a claim, then he or she should quickly and decisively look for the next possible best solution. This could mean calling the claims department for answers or getting a billing service representative on the phone to help.

CSR hiring tip: Ask candidates how they would handle a specific issue, such as an angry insured demanding to know why their auto policy renewed at a higher premium. A potential new hire who visibly shuts down and appears uncomfortable may have difficulty handling sticky billing issues or other customer support queries. You might even consider administering a written test to determine how a potential hire handles customer issues via email, chat or the agency’s help desk.

Someone who doesn’t want to learn. It’s important for CSRs to want to learn and grow their skills as a professional in your agency. This can include learning how to file a claim on behalf of an insured, taking information for a quote, or presenting cross-selling opportunities to policyholders.

CSR hiring tip: Individuals who don’t show a willingness to learn will only do the very minimum of what is asked of them. Ask candidates whether they have an interest in learning more about insurance and your agency. Those who want to learn more will demonstrate a genuine interest, often by asking for more information.

Hiring the ideal CSR may not be easy, but completing your CE requirements can be with FastrackCE. Now you can conveniently get all your CE credits completed in one place — including state-mandated courses such as ethics, flood, long-term care and annuity training. For more information, call 800-544-3605 or visit us at fastrackce.com.

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3 of the Worst Social Media Marketing Mistakes Insurance Agents Make

Social media marketing can help insurance agents/brokers better communicate and interact with policyholders and prospects — but only if it’s done right. Don’t miss the mark. Check to see whether you are Social Media Marketingmaking these three critical social media mistakes.

Having an inconsistent online presence. Too many insurance agents go months without posting a new blog, sharing helpful content or updating their agency’s Facebook page. In fact, 86% of insurance clients feel that communication with their agent is lacking.

The fix: If time is an issue, consider using a social media management tool that can free up hours that you would normally spend putting together a content calendar, posting, checking accounts and addressing consumer questions/comments. In 2020, the top-rated social media management tools are Hootsuite, eClincher and Sendible. However, not all social media tools are actual management tools. For example, some may help schedule content but don’t actively manage network engagement. Ideally, a social media management tool should provide you with:

  • A dashboard to easily monitor all your social network messages and allow you to instantly engage with your audience.
  • A scheduling system to systematically schedule and recycle your content to each of your social networks.
  • Progress reports on how well your content has performed on each network.

Posting the usual insurance content. It’s easy to reuse company-provided marketing materials, offer “free, no obligation” quotes, low rates, etc. But pushing out the same messages as other insurers is a nuisance and a waste of everyone’s time.

The fix: Demonstrate your sincerity by showing that your agency cares about more than selling a policy. For example, post blogs and send tweets that promote local community events, share what’s new in your company or agency, and showcase customer case studies and testimonials. Look at your customer base. Do you insure commercial businesses? If yes, consider sending updates on legislative issues, changes in workers’ compensation and employment laws, employee benefits news, etc. This can be in the form of a blog, a link to third-party content, or something along those lines. The point is, be pushing out content that your clients will find interesting and useful.

Ignoring messages, comments and questions. Social media platforms create an interactive bridge that connects you with prospects and policyholders. If you aren’t regularly responding to communications that come in on your Facebook wall, website blog posts, tweets, or similar venues, people will get the feeling that you just don’t care.

The fix: If you can’t properly manage your social media or website messages, consider assigning the task to an employee who can regularly check your accounts so that you’re notified when a new comment or question comes in. If your agency is a heavy Facebook user, the Facebook Pages app is a great way to manage your Facebook page from your smartphone, so you can instantly respond to prospects and customers, as well as receive important alerts. The app will also allow you to link to other accounts, so you can easily manage posts from other platforms using one inbox.

Spend more time ramping up your social media presence and less time sitting in a classroom completing your continuing education credits with FastrackCE. We offer courses in most states covering a broad range of topics, including most of the state-mandated courses such as ethics, flood, long-term care and annuity training.

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